These children, at a fairly young age, learn to consistently color inside the lines. The precision of it makes them happy, and as an added bonus, the adults are pleased. As a kindergartener my daughter was one of those kids. She always colored in the lines; she always pleased the teacher.
So imagine her disappointment when her teacher told her she was wrong in how she was coloring her picture of a cat. It seems she was carefully staying inside the lines, but filling the white space with tiny overlapping circles in soft loops. She wanted her cat to look "furry", and the usual way of coloring wouldn't produce that. I never knew how much of her disappointment was in herself for not pleasing, and how much she was disappointed with her teacher for not immediately grasping her intended outcome.
I've spent most of my life coloring in the lines. A significant part of it was making soft little circles or dots and dashes, but inside the lines nonetheless. Sure, I developed a reputation for provoking change. But when that was the case, it was not that I colored outside the lines so much as that I convinced others to trade in their cat for a picture of a kangaroo. Still defined boundaries, but a different picture.
When my daughter was born our church's idea of preschool Sunday church was often everyone under three years old in the same room, watched over by two lovely elderly ladies in rocking chairs. While her outgoing, rambunctious older brother had thrived in the chaos, I simply was not putting my sensitive baby girl in there. So away I went, reading books, attending conferences, finding a new picture. Then I dug into convincing church leadership that the new picture was desperately needed. In spite of my too critical spirit and my youthful impatience, God used the efforts, and we created a healthier, more meaningful church experience for the youngest among us.
So I kept on, sometimes coloring the picture I was given, either as expected so as to gain approval, or quietly muttering as I made my little circles. Other times I convinced everyone to go with a different picture. And maybe I occasionally colored an ocean green. But it was in the lines.
Now I am feeling the spirit of Jenny Joseph's poem "Warning", which starts with the wonderful lines, "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red had which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me." She then goes on to enumerate the socially incorrect behaviors she may experiment with, like sitting down on the pavement when she is tired, wearing her slippers in the rain, and learning to spit. The closing verse says, "But maybe I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised, when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple."
Perhaps I will color some outside the lines, just for practice. Maybe I will even scribble.